Terrific Broth

The life of two scientists, creating a small home, in big mountains

Category: Furnishing and Decor (Page 1 of 2)

A Living Room Update

I took last week off and spent some quality time with my family. After weeks of stressful work, it was peaceful to be at home. We took advantage of our awesome Epic Local pass and skied Arapahoe basin, Breckenridge, Keystone, and Vail. It felt so luxurious to wake up and decide which top-notch ski resort we felt like going that day. We are incredibly blessed.

Aside from having fun, we also made good progress in Slav’s office. Lots got installed, and lots got pieced together. By Saturday, we had all of our books on the library shelves, and really cleaned up the office. It is so spacious now! We still need to trim out the built-ins, but with all the books on the wall, our living quarter is now cleaner and calmer than ever.

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The Living Quarter

With the office starts taking shape, we turned our attention to the living room. Our living room was very basic, containing only two recliners, a record storage, and a two-person dining set. Aside from dining, we rarely use this room. Both chairs were pretty much dog beds.

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Our living room has not changed much since we first moved in. To remind you, we started by removing the old carpet and brought in some IKEA furniture.

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Then slowly added plants and hung our collection of cow art. Last December, we added some Christmas decor:

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The room felt cold and empty for we took down the Christmas tree. We really wanted to make the room cozy and inviting, a place to draw us in and spend time together as a family. We decided to do a few upgrades here.

Adding Privacy Blinds

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We hung IKEA curtains in the living room right after we moved in. These curtains are light and airy; we love them. But being light and airy also means semi-transparent and see-through. The notion that our neighbors might be able to tell what we are doing in this room drove us into other rooms that offer more privacy. We have window blinds in the office and the bedroom, and these rooms we went.

To make the living room more private, we decided to add a pair of BUSKTOFFEL blinds from IKEA. It is almost all made of recycled paper but looks like bamboo blinds, which I have a soft spot for.

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I mounted them just below the curtains, so we would not see the steel rail when the curtains are closed. When the blinds are up, they naturally rest right at the window header.

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This is what the blinds look like when they are closed in a sunny day. I’d say that it is very effective blocking light, which will be useful in Summer afternoons. We close both the blinds and curtains at night, and one could no longer see our movement in the house.

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It was sunny and warm the day I mounted the blinds. It was the first day of good weather after a long weekend of snow and wind, the pups decided to take it in by sitting at the only bare spot in the yard, where the snow had melted:

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A More Inviting Layout:

Aside from mounting the blinds, I also tried a different layout. I moved the record storage under the window and the dining sets next to the living room/kitchen wall. We have been slowly accumulating plants in the last a few months and they all could use more natural light. The top of the record storage provides a good spot for just that.

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I’ve been growing gardenia for five years and had not had any success. It would have been ideal to have a south facing window, but we do not have any in this house. 🙁 This west-facing window has to do.

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Bringing in a Sofa

The new layout revealed how pathetic the seating situation is in our house. We are never into big sectionals, but having only two recliners makes the room feel like a dorm, not a home.

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To make things even worse, we moved the recliner on the left into the office…

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One recliner + two dog beds. This screams “lonely dog lady” so loud that I could almost feel the panic. It is finally time for a sofa.

We loved a 3-seat sectional in our NC apartment and all of us (including the dogs) used it a lot. You can almost always find one of us on the chaise. It allows both of us to sit together for a movie, and it worked really well for day napping. Lucky us – during our last trip to IKEA, we came across the DJURSBO sleeper.

This 3-seat sofa with chaise is very similar to our old sofa, just a bit narrower. We like the more grow-up material and the sleek look. It is big enough for both of us, maybe with a dog or two. It can be extended to a daybed, which is perfect for movie nights. It also offers a storage cavity underneath the seat for pillows, blankets and bedding.

It checked all of our requirement, and ever better, it was $300 off! We later learned that this line of sofa has been are discontinued by IKEA. That explains why there were dozens of them in the as-is section (the showroom label is just for cashier’s convenience).

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It is like meeting your soulmate, who is also a cheap date. Tell me you do not fall for it.

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The sofa came into two boxes. Since the sofa and the office library will be the two largest pieces of furniture you see when walking into the front door, we chose the color brown to echo the bookcases.

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Assembling it was surprisingly eaaaasy. It was also flawless despite being stacked in the as-is section.

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It is nice to see the space below the cow art filled, so the living room does not feel so empty. We put chaise next to the window and floor lamp and it makes a lovely spot for reading. I can see a cat napping on the chaise already (still need Slav’s permission for a cat).

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This is what the living room looks like today. Plants are happy for more light, the puppies are happy for more place to lounge, and we are happy for a cozier and more comfortable living quarter.

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What do you think? Do you like it better too? Now we have finished furnishing the room, the next step for the living room is to refinish the hardwood floors on the main floor. It has to be warm enough to open the windows and doors, which means another five months. We are trying to be patient and cannot help but imagining how lovely the living room can be with shining floors and new baseboards!

What I Almost Bought From Rejuvenation

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

I am thankful to spend this Thanksgiving with my sister. Since moving to the States in 2005, I stopping celebrating holidays all together. Chinese holidays are not recognized holidays in US, so I usually do not get the day off.  I am also not used to celebrating American holidays, such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. So it is hard to justify paying top airfare to eat unfamiliar food with my sister just because I have two days off. As a consequence, I ended up working during most of the holidays.

This year is a bit different – Slav’s mom will spend Christmas with us, so we are actually going to follow Christmas transitions. And for Thanksgiving, we have been my sister’s since Tuesday night. Needless to say that we are having a wonderful time!

Without work, the dogs, and away from home renovation, I suddenly had a lot of time in my hands. So much time that I even browsed home decor websites. I am super cheap and hardly buy any furniture with a huge sale. So poking around big store’s website such as Rejuvenations’ is a rare event for me.

It turned out that I was not that good of an anti-consumerism warrior as I thought I was. Within 10 minutes, I had more than half a dozen items in my cart already. I did not check out any of them, so it is still a win for me at the end. But I thought I’d share with you and why I liked them.

1. The Crosby bench

This bench was ~$50 dollars when I saw it. It is 71″ long, and they have a 64″ version that was even cheaper (in $40 range). Being an oak bench, the price is very good. We can definitely build something like this ourselves (who knows, maybe I can even build it myself), but the time and effect will not be worth it. The only reason I did not buy it is that I do not have a vision of where it should be. We have a round dining table so this cannot be used as a dining bench. Our living space is small (850 sqft) with very limited wall space. This bench is simply too long to be floating around the house.

2. The Crosby bar stool

I like the look of this bar stool, and it is only $43 when I saw it. I like the color, the finishes, and the fact that it was made from white oak. However, I do not have high counters in my home. This is a typical example of something I like but I have no use for. I even thought about buying it to pair with the light work bench in the garage, just to have it. But my principle of not buy anything I absolutely will use a lot won at the end.

3. Casement fastener

This fastener caught my eye because we need to replace our attic door, and this can be a great hardware for it. The local building code calls for a self-closing door that can be locked, so my current design for the attic door is with spring hinges and a casement fastener like this. It has many finishes to choose from, and the $12 price tag is comparable to the ones I saw in home improvement stores. The reason I did not buy it? This is the only thing I actually need now and the shipping is not free for just this. I guess it is really hard to convince me to buy something…

4. Red berry door mat

I adore this door mat. Winter is coming to Colorado and we have lost all the leaves on the trees. I started craving evergreen trees with red berries – they dress up snowy Christmas so well! But we just got similar doormat without the berries from IKEA. New mat will have to wait for the old ones to fall apart.

5. This rug

I’ve been wanting a calmer rug for a while. What we currently have is a green IKEA HAMPEN, which my dogs adore. It looks and feels more expensive than the $30 price tag, and it can take a looot of abuse. When it became too worn or smelly, which happens when you have dogs, we just replace it for another $30. But the color of the rug is too intense for this ranch. I want something that is more neutral, but not boring. And this rug really gets me:

$250 is not a bad price for a 5′ x 8′ wool rug. I especially like how it looks laying with a hemp rug.

However, the reason I did not buy it is the exact reason why we have the green rug at the first place – the dogs. See these fussy ends coming off the rug? I am 200% sure that Charlie will chew on them on day 1. The hemp rug will not be ignored either.

6. The throw

This throw is still over $100 when it was on sale, so buying it was not an option for me. All our blankets and throws are dog-tested, which means they all got chewed more or less. Based on how many holes on them, they all get discarded eventually. But I liked the pattern on this throw, which reminds me folk arts in the mountains in south Poland.

7. All-white pillowcases

The last thing is pure utility. We always use all-white pillowcases and I generally replace them every year (Slav’s pillow will be in cream color at that point). This pair is $17 and I like the simple design of it. I did not buy them because we are not replacing our pillow cases yet, and they are still $17 after the big sale. So I can get them whenever I actually need them. Again, a good price tag and the fact I like it are usually not good enough reasons for me to hit the checkout button – it has to be what I love, something I need immediately, and will be using a lot. 🙂

Here they are, the seven things I almost bought this week. Did you buy any home decor this Thanksgiving?

A Thrifted Secretary Desk

Happy Monday everyone! I hope you had a relaxing weekend. Things are pretty busy here in the ranch this week, but Slav and I still managed to get some things done. We are moving along nicely with the ceiling demo in our garage, which I am hoping to show you soon. We even had a little time to restore another piece of furniture – a 1919 secretary desk!

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I’ve been looking for a desk like this one. I prefer a big surface to work off, where I can spread out my papers and three different cups of tea (which happens regularly). The problem is? Slav also loves a big desk. And he already had one. So we just do not have room for another.

In the past, I have been always working off our dining table(s), whichever one we have/had in the house. It is not a bad setup if there are just two of us, since we both eat in front of our computers 99% of the time (bad, I know). But now with in-law’s visit, we would like keep my papers and laptops off the dining table. So a few weeks ago, we hit the Mile High flea market , in hope to find an expendable table with a small floor print for me.

And this is what we came home with, $20 less in our pocket:

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It is a secretary-style writing desk, which was made in 1919 (!). This is the first “antique” piece I even have owned, and truth to be told, I am beyond impressed by how solid this 98-year-old desk is. It is so heavy that it takes two people to lift it.

Please excuse Charlie in the above picture – I could not get him to stop licking the table, as if some other dog has done something really naughty there – now I think about it, it might be the case.

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The whole desk is 20 inches deep, with the shelves taking up 10 inches of the depth. Luckily, the writing surface can be pulled out another 6 inches, making a 16″ depth. My computer can fit comfortably.

The top board of the desk can be closed to conceal anything inside the shelves. It acts like the fallboard/keylid on a piano. When not in use, I can push back the writing surface, close the lid, and make a 20″ x 35″ flat surface. This style is called “flip-top” and was very popular among antique writing desks.

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Below the writing surface, there is a very shallow drawer. It is merely 1 3/4″ deep, presumably for storing papers, envelops and pencils. It is perfect for storing my laptop away when it is not in use.

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The writing surface can be pull out and lift off the desk completely. In the picture below, you can see the shallow drawer as the bottom of the desk.

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This desk does not have lots of decorative mouldings, but I do love the curved edges and the little details on the front.

This secretary desk is in amazing shape considering its age – it is almost 100 years old! But like any piece of antique furniture, it has some dings and scratches. Last weekend, I decided to use similar method as restoring the vintage guest bed to bring it back to life:

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I started by taking the desk apart as much as I could, and cleaning it with some soapy water with grade 0 steel wool:

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After drying, the pieces looked really pale.

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I chose danish oil as a wood finish with the vintage guest bed, because I love the color of the bed and danish oil does not change the color of the wood. However, this desk is a bit yellow to my taste. I’d like to make it darker, maybe more mahogany.

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I like how the little side table turned out with Restore-A-Finish, which was also too light and too yellow before. So I decided to give Restore-A-Finish another go. The picture above shows the difference between the first coat (left two legs), and before the Restore-A-Finish (the ones on the right). The wood just drank up the finish right away, and resulted in a slightly darker and much richer color. Here is another photo right after I gave the left side of the board its first coat:

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I did two coats on every pieces back to back, wiping excess shortly after each coat, and let the whole thing dried overnight. Restore-A-Finish does have a pretty strong odor, so I used it in the garage with a mask, and left the garage door open with a small gap at the bottom overnight. While I was at it, I cleaned and coated an old wooden box we had as well. We used it to store remotes in our living room and it could seriously use a refinish after 4 years of heavy use.

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The wood pieces were in no doubt a lot richer color. I had not even put wax on yet at this point.

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The next morning, with all the Restore-A-Finish dried and odor disappeared, I used the stain marker to touch up some lighter spots.

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As the last step, I finished everything with a generous coat of Feed-N-Wax. This is my favorite furniture wax, not only because it protects the wood and makes it shine, but also because it smells wonderful! It has a sweet citrus smell that is close to honey-marinated, lightly-toasted orange peels.

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We put the desk together a few hours after applying the wax. And here is the desk now:

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And our storage box:

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When we were at the flea market, we also rescued this little guy:

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He costed us as much as the secretary desk, but we adore him. He looks innocent from one angle, and a little naughty from another angle:

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From below, he looked a bit annoyed:

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He is definitely living on my desk now, along with my stationary. The beer mug on the right is my “good-luck” departure gift from my last job, which was engraved by my co-workers.

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Another precious gift I got from my previous job is the cactus next to the desk. My old boss broke this piece off a 15-feet tall cactus, which he had been growing for decades in his office.

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This cactus is the only plant I moved across country with – wrapped in bubble wraps and protected by packing peanuts. It still went through a hard time. It is nice to see it putting up new growth again.

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Here you have it, my new thrifted desk! Right after we got the desk for $20 at the flea market, I came across this Ebay post selling the exact same “Antique Early American Style Mahogany Flip Top Secretary Writing Desk”. And guess how much it is selling for? $625! That is $600 difference if we count the cost of the steel wool, Restore-A-Finish, and Feed-N-Wax!

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